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Have you ever learned a lesson that you should have already known? I spent the first half of this year doing exactly that.

I have heard all my life how important friends are.  I have been taught since childhood that if I am to have friends, I must be a friend worth having. I have been told that friendship is key to a balanced life.

Yet, I have spent the first half of this year learning—or maybe relearning—that lesson.

Earlier this year, I invited a group of guys from my church to read through a book that had a huge impact on me. We now meet regularly to discuss our thoughts on the reading, as well as a variety of topics. In short, it has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

So far this year, I have also been able to reconnect with friends that live far away. I get to hang out with one of these guys every few months or so. I only see another about once a year. Another, we can get together about every three years. Another, this was the first time in about ten years that we have been in the same room. In each case, our wives talked, our kids played, and we picked up right where we left off. It has been amazing.

But, then something hit me: everything I have done with my friends could be done—has been done—digitally.

I have been in discussion groups—online. I’m pretty sure we could have created some space for my reading group. I have ‘kept up’ with my long-distance friends and their families over the years—digitally. If you had asked me what they were up to, even in recent weeks, I would have been able to answer confidently.

But, here’s the thing…

When it comes to personal relationships, digital connection is a great supplement, but it is no substitution.

I would not trade the few hours I have recently spent with my friends for all the digital connectedness in the world. Here are a few reasons why. Continue reading “Personal > Digital”

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3 Bible Passages for Thinking about Joshua Harris

Have you heard about Joshua Harris? Chances are you have heard more about him in the past two weeks than you have in the past two years. If not, allow me to update.

Two weeks ago, Harris and his wife announced that they were getting a divorce. This is big news for the former megachurch pastor and author of the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book that was central in sparking the so-called “purity culture.” (See here.)

Then, last week, Harris announced, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.” He went on to write,

[T]o the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.

So, here’s the thing…

We have seen people embrace a Christian identity and deny a Biblical sexual ethic in order to embrace the sexual revolution. What strikes many about Harris’ story is not simply a repudiation of Biblical sexuality but of Biblical Christianity altogether. As Christians, how are we to think about such an influential figure renouncing the faith?

I would offer three passages to guide us. Continue reading “3 Bible Passages for Thinking about Joshua Harris”

Why I love Superhero Stories

I love comic books. I love the storylines. I love the history behind the stories. I love the characters—most of them anyways. So, ever since the tidal wave of superhero movies flooded the past two decades, I have been all in.

Sure, there were superhero movies before the year 2000, but well-made movies were few and far between. It should also be said that not all comic book movies made since then are worth watching. (I’m still bitter about the 105 minutes I will never get back thanks to Green Lantern.) However, comic book movies have seen unprecedented success in recent years.

With the advent of believable CGI, brilliant casting, and skillful adaptation of classic storylines, long-time enthusiasts like myself have welcomed multitudes of new fans.

Furthermore, with box office records broken annually, it does not seem like the flood will be receding any time soon. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grossed over $18 billion with solid production plans well into the 2020s. Superhero movies are a dominant presence on the list of the highest-earning movie franchises of all time.

With that many movies, making that much money, over that amount of time, there must be something that makes them that popular with that many people. I believe there are several themes common among superhero movies that connect to the heart of the human experience. 

Here’s the thing…

I love superhero stories, and you probably do too.

Here are three reasons why: Continue reading “Why I love Superhero Stories”

Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)

As a Christian parent, are you concerned that your children have doubts about the faith you are passing on to them? As a youth pastor or minister, are you troubled by the apathy so many of the kids in your youth group show toward spiritual things? As a Christian educator, are you worried that you are out of your depth with the questions your students have about the Christian worldview?

Being all three, I can relate. The fact is that the generation currently coming of age, Generation Z as they are called, are living a profoundly different adolescence than even the most recent generation before them. So, how do we Christian parents, pastors, and teachers help them stay grounded in the faith and thrive in the culture?

Here’s the thing…

Thankfully, we have some help.

In their newest book, So the Next Generation Will Know (set to release May 1), renowned Christian apologists Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace offer a guide to engaging what is quickly becoming the largest and most secularized generation. Continue reading “Book Review: So the Next Generation Will Know (McDowell & Wallace)”

Mending the Secular/Sacred Split

Many Christians find themselves living in two separate worlds, one on Sunday and the other the rest of the week.

They may see their faith as an add-on that merely supplements their daily routine. The effect that being a Christian has on their lives is limited to nominal traditions and comfort in times of crisis. They do not see their Christianity as having any implications on their jobs outside of being an upright, honest, hard-working, gospel witness while doing it.

On the other hand, they may see their faith as being somehow beyond their day-to-day. Worshiping God is something done in a Sunday service. Serving God is something done in organized church ministry. They see their jobs as John Beckett describes “a second-class endeavor—necessary to put bread on the table, but somehow less noble than more sacred pursuits like being a minister or a missionary.”[1]

In other words, they have bought into the secular/sacred split, dividing all of life into a two-story house that Francis Schaeffer described decades ago. They have relegated “real world” issues and “everyday” life downstairs along with all things secular. They have confined their Christianity upstairs, as it were, with personal preference, subjective values, and everything else sacred.

But, this is a huge departure from the Christian life as prescribed in the Bible, doing everything in Jesus’ name (Colossians 3:17) and to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)

So, here’s the thing…

We need to mend the secular/sacred split. Continue reading “Mending the Secular/Sacred Split”

A Brief History of the Secular/Sacred Split

In the previous post, I introduced a way of viewing human experience known as the secular/sacred split. In a nutshell, it is the idea that all our thoughts and actions belong in one of two distinct categories:

Secular—all that is physical, practical, tangible, and temporal

Sacred—all that is spiritual, abstract, intangible, and eternal

It is profoundly obvious that ideas shape history. However, I believe it may also be said that history shapes ideas. The secular/sacred split is an excellent illustration of the interplay between an idea and history writ large.

In this post, I would like to give an immensely oversimplified but hopefully accurate history of this idea.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So, if we see where this idea has taken us in the past, we can make the choice as to whether we want to go there again. Continue reading “A Brief History of the Secular/Sacred Split”

Beware the Secular/Sacred Split

Charles Spurgeon was famous for referring to the gospel as a caged lion. “It does not need to be defended,” he would say, “it just needs to be let out of its cage.”

Keeping that analogy in mind, when we Christians are commanded to give a reasoned defense for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), we must simply let the gospel out of its cage. The question we must ask is, what cage is preventing the gospel to move freely in people’s hearts and minds?

Christian philosopher Nancy Pearcey has a suggestion:

Today the cage is our accommodation to the secular/sacred split that reduces Christianity to a matter of private personal belief.[1]

Continue reading “Beware the Secular/Sacred Split”